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"Mr Arsenal" to celebrate 70th anniversary at club with Wembley return

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"Mr Arsenal" to celebrate 70th anniversary at club with Wembley return


Ken Friar, nicknamed Mr Arsenal, will celebrate his 70th anniversary as a full time club employee at Wembley tomorrow.

Incredibly, Friar, 85, started work at Arsenal officially on August 1, 1950, and will take his place in the front row of the Royal Box to watch the FA Cup final.

Friar, the club’s long serving managing director and club secretary, has overseen the move to the Emirates, the club’s record breaking successes in the FA Cup as well as a proud record of never having seen Arsenal relegated during all of his time.

Islington-born Friar actually started as a runner for the club when he was just 11 years old when he started working on a match day.

Ken Friar’s 70th anniversary as a full-time Arsenal employee is on Saturday

He went to school in Highbury, was one day playing football in Avenell Road with some friends when the ball was kicked under manager George Allison’s car.

Allison asked the boys whether they liked football, Friar said yes and was invited to work on a match day and the whole journey began back then before working his way up.

There have been several great stories which go down as club legend including Friar having a special “bat phone” in his desk which was reserved for extra special phone calls.

Ken Friar, with Ivan Gazidis in 2017 at Southampton

Legend has it that it went off the day that Dennis Bergkamp signed and you knew it was something extra special when the phone rang.

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When Arsenal signed Malcolm Macdonald in the 1970s, it was a huge deal which former chairman Denis Hill-Wood brokered for a third of a million pounds.

Friar was midway through writing a cheque when Hill-Wood insisted that it was made out for £333,333 and 34 pence because, according to the former chairman, it “would show that we really want him.”

There was a top level club meeting ahead of the move to the Emirates when former commercial director Adrian Ford was asked who they should get to open the stadium.

Friar with then-Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle in 2001

Ford immediately looked at Friar and said: “I bet Ken has connections at the Palace.” Then, quick as a flash, Friar produced a letter from the Palace saying that the Queen would indeed be honoured to open it.

It had not been staged but Friar, an OBE, already had the matter in hand.

Unfortunately, the Queen ultimately could not do it because of a bad back but the Duke of Edinburgh stepped in.

Friar is still a regular at the club’s offices and is always on the end of a phone but his trip to Wembley with son Neil will be one of his first trips out of the house because of the coronavirus.

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